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Demographic implications of lead poisoning for eagles across North America

February 17, 2022

Lead poisoning occurs worldwide in populations of predatory birds, but exposure rates and population impacts are known only from regional studies. We evaluated the lead exposure of 1210 bald and golden eagles from 38 US states across North America, including 620 live eagles. We detected unexpectedly high frequencies of lead poisoning of eagles, both chronic (46 to 47% of bald and golden eagles, as measured in bone) and acute (27 to 33% of bald eagles and 7 to 35% of golden eagles, as measured in liver, blood, and feathers). Frequency of lead poisoning was influenced by age and, for bald eagles, by region and season. Continent-wide demographic modeling suggests that poisoning at this level suppresses population growth rates for bald eagles by 3.8% (95% confidence interval: 2.5%, 5.4%) and for golden eagles by 0.8% (0.7%, 0.9%). Lead poisoning is an underappreciated but important constraint on continent-wide populations of these iconic protected species.

Publication Year 2022
Title Demographic implications of lead poisoning for eagles across North America
DOI 10.1126/science.abj3068
Authors Vincent A. Slabe, James T. Anderson, Brian A. Millsap, Jeffrey L. Cooper, Alan R. Harmata, Marco Restani, Ross H. Crandall, Barbara Bodenstein, Peter H. Bloom, Travis L. Booms, John Buchweitz, Renee C. E. Culver, Kim Dickerson, Robert Domenech, Ernesto Dominguez-Villegas, Daniel Driscoll, Brian W. Smith, Michael J. Lockhart, David McRuer, Tricia A. Miller, Patricia Ortiz, Krysta Rogers, Matt Schwarz, Natalie Turley, Brian Woodbridge, Myra E. Finkelstein, Christian A. Triana, Christopher R. DeSorbo, Todd E. Katzner
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science
Index ID 70228692
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center; National Wildlife Health Center